“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the lyrics of a country song: without a wife, […]
According to your friend Luke, you say this:
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, “This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.”
The towers that fell this anniversary in New York had strong foundations, and all the assets needed for their construction. But they still tumbled. And so we mourn 3,000 sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends.
I don’t really understand it, God—your cross and all this suffering.
Mother Teresa once wrote that “sufferings, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that he can kiss you.” I suppose that all those families of 9/11 victims are marked with bright red lipstick (the shade my mom wears) on their cheeks, that their suffering has a purpose. But it’s difficult to make sense of right now.
For me the cross looks an awful lot like a plus sign, and I’m still having anxiety dreams about my calculus class in college. But at least with math, there is a neat, tidy equation that (for mathematicians anyway) computes perfectly. If you add A to C, and then subtract B, and divide by D, you get F (at least I do in my nightmares).
But your system of crosses isn’t so systematic. The deaths and diagnoses and diseases happen randomly, with no apparent order. The life inside the mind of this mentally ill addict looks worse than a calculus classroom–with plus signs all over. Every time I attempt a healthier behavior, I mourn a loss, an attachment, a comfort. It’s Lent 24/7 in this brain–no dispensations allowed, not even on Sunday’s or on my birthday.
Today I’m hunkering down in the basement with my Hershey’s dark chocolate bar, fighting no fewer than four addictions. I want a glass of Merlot to quiet the noisy crowd in my mind, the comfort of an unhealthy friendship, the emotional rollercoaster ride of a dysfunctional relationship (so that I don’t have to feel the awkwardness of being alone with myself), a triple-espresso and lung rockets (Marlboro Lights) to give me the quick rush. And that’s just for starters.
Everywhere I turn in my four-story apartment, there’s an opportunity to self-destruct. There is anxiety and fear gnawing at me.
“You must carry your own cross,” you say (or at least according to Luke). Is there any wiggle room there? I was hoping for a little softer directive on the to-do list: make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the homeless shelter two miles away (if they don’t have peanut allergies), direct the pumpkin patch fundraiser for church, or maybe baby sit the Eucharist in the adoration chapel an hour a week?
God, by every standard, I am among one of the most blessed persons on earth. I have abundant gifts from you and then some. But this morning, right here and right now, I am overwhelmed with sadness and loss. I feel like I am so far away from your peace.
Does this mean you are closer to me? “When you are feeling miserable inside,” writes Mother Teresa, “look at the cross and you will know what is happening.”
Will I? I know that you love me, and all your creatures, especially those who were inside the toppling towers of 9/11 and their families. But why do we have to suffer to feel closer to you? Why this redundant theme of the cross?
Mother Teresa found meaning in suffering. Because she attached it to your cross. That is why she is on the fast track to sainthood, and I’m floating somewhere in purgatory. “Suffering in itself is nothing; but suffering shared with Christ’s passion is a wonderful gift,” she wrote. “Man’s most beautiful gift is that he can share in the passion of Christ. Yes, a gift and a sign of his love; because this is how his Father proved that he loved the world—by giving his Son to die for us.”
I want to be more like her. I swear I do. Teach me to love my cross, O God, and direct me to the most comfortable spot inside my four-story apartment.